didn't go to vegas, ended up just doing a leisurely drive along pacific coast highway from playa del rey (near LAX) north to ventura, which is only about 80 miles, but in a meandering non-freeway -like, highly scenic way.
as the name suggests, the highway runs along the coast, sometimes along inland surface streets, and for a large part, alongside the pacific ocean. you can actually take PCH along most of the coast of california, which one day, week, month i intend to do. (anybody up for a road trip?)
our first stop was for a late breakfast/early lunch on the venice boardwalk. the boardwalk is, as jeanne had earlier commented, a bit of a public carnival sideshow, where everyone and his nudist rollerskating mother comes out to play. there are shops, restaurants and residences that line the boardwalk on one side, with the beach on the other. buskers, leaflet whores, homeless people and tourists hang out almost comfortably together along the walkway, either oblivious or observing each other with that i-am-so-checking-you-out-but-if-you-see-me-
i'll-pretend-you're-not-all-that way that almost everyone in los angeles seems to have mastered. the standard dress code seems to be whatever shows the most amount of flesh you are comfortable with showing to the public ever, even if it's foggy and chilly outside when the rest of los angeles is burning up like the hades that it is. blame the marine layer. and that trinnie+susanna aren't required viewing. shame.
the boardwalk isn't particularly known for its food, but i've always had a fondness for fig tree's cafe. it's right on the boardwalk, with a nice view of the hoi-polloi and the beach beyond from the (almost) wrap-around patio/outdoor dining area. it's relaxed, with plastic furniture and chipped paint, the silverware doesn't match, the dress code is almost as lax as its surroundings, but the food is healthy and tasty. it's a bit hippy to me, but i used to love it for its tofu reuben and one fabulous waiter who was totally unsmiling and unspeaking, but still was always there when i needed him, and he totally coordinated my cappuccino cup and saucer with what i was wearing every time. that is true attention to detail, folks.
we sat outside and had a good view of the sand but not the water (foggy), throngs in thongs, police patrol, and a group of buskers freeform noodling a crazy sitar meditative interspersed with light jazz guitar and surprisingly pleasant west coast sound instrumentals. i was rather dismayed to be met by the host who was wearing--rather strangely considering his surroundings--a suit and tie. what happened to the hippy-dippy blonde bombshells i was used to? also, the waiters were now in uniform (albeit just black tee-shirts) instead of the rather informal i-slept-in-this look previously kept. had fig tree's changed?
maybe so, as the menu was definitely pared down--i don't remember the menu verbatim, but i recall it used to be much longer, with more crunchy granola hippy healthy type offerings. the mushroom nut burger-type food seems to have been replaced with a blanket "we use organic products when possible"-type of healthy, and my beloved tofu reuben--grilled rye bread, saurkraut, russian dressing on a slab of grilled tofu--was gone. crap. somehow the turkey melt really didn't make up for it, neither did the still-on-the-menu cornmeal pancakes, although they did have almost a basketful of fresh blueberries added into them, along with butter and maple syrup.
the sandwich and corncakes were good, but not spectacular, and somehow the charm has gone out of it for me. i don't think healthy food has to mean it all looks like poo on a plate, but sometimes it's nice to know the wheat germ brigade is slinging its soy hash out to the public; apparently they've moved on from fig tree's.
as did we. we went further north past santa (har)monica, beyond the newly renovated getty villa, and into the 'hood of malibu. coastal town. lots of fresh air, sunshine, mountains for hiking and horseback riding, beaches for surfing and sunning, and throngs of celebrities buying up multimillion dollar shacks on the beach. weirdly, one of the least populated beaches in the 'bu is home to one of the most exclusive enclaves of celebrities and hollywood power players: broad beach. well, maybe not so weird, as the public access walks to the beach itself are well hidden amongst the houses on a narrow side road, and the property owners are doing everything they can to keep the riff-raff (eg, ie, aka me) out.
there are two access points, one in the 31000 block of broadbeach road, and another on the 32000 block, about a quarter mile away. just drive slowly and look for small chain link fences with the signs above (although, the gates are almost always propped open so the "welcome to the beach" signs are hidden--sneaky!). parking is free across the street, and the gates should be open from sunrise to sunset.
i imagine the main appeal of broad beach (besides it being uncrowded) is that it doesn't really look like a southern california beach. it looks more like what i imagine martha's vineyard to look like--shingled houses, adirondack loungers, sandy bluffs, dunes, sea grass and tidepools. it always seems to be 10 degrees cooler and breezier there as well, which makes it ideal for walking or running along the shore, rather than sunning and beaching oneself like a whale. also, the water drops off rather dramatically not too far from shore, and the water seems rougher, so perhaps swimming is best left to experts; however, it is rather nice for body boarding and easy surfing on the northern end.
i imagine if you had more nefarious reasons for being there you can probably figure out which celeb lives where with the help of the internets and those maps to the stars' homes they sell on hollywood blvd (snort. good luck.), but although the stars may live there, they don't actually like getting wet or being exposed to the sun. no ozone layer. some of them might melt. however, having said that, we managed to score an environmental extravanganza with a triple sighting of ed begley jr, al gore, and a pod of dolphins about 50 feet from shore (the dolphins, not ed nor al). of course, we were most excited about the dolphins, although the sight of al gore in orange swim shorts and anorak is something i'm not likely to forget anytime soon.
the big rock on the way to ventura, often known as "the big rock on the way to ventura"
having been thus refreshed by a rather brisk walk, we went on our merry little way up further to ventura county, following more lovely beachiness and later into farmland and military installations of oxnard and whatever else is inland. at that point, we decided it was time to head back, but there was literally something in the air that made us make one last stop. ventura is home to driscoll farms and others whose main crop is berries; the air was heavy with the smell of ripe strawberries from the fields that surrounded us.
along the road were numerous roadside stands selling produce and flowers from the farms where they were grown, but we only wanted one thing, but wanted a lot of it. luckily, the first stand we came to had it: strawberries, one flat of 12 baskets for a mere ten bucks. scored and secured, we made our way back into town, and enjoyed the not-so-perfect looking, but very perfect tasting fruit as our evening's reward.
429 ocean front walk,
31346 broad beach road